Tag Archives: Obama

The wrong enemy

I know, the Obama administration has given us plenty to be angry about. And we’re right to point it out, loudly and often. But seriously, my friends, we need to take a break from it right now. There’s an election coming up, and we’re targeting the wrong enemy.

Of course, that’s what we idealists do. We liberal, progressive idealists. We know what we want, and we want it now. And if you don’t give it to us, well, fuck you. We just don’t have time to waste on petty politics and game-playing.

Take don’t ask don’t tell, for example. Good god, the president could sign an executive order, but he won’t. He says only Congress has the authority to change the law, never mind that Constitutional scholars, which he’s supposed to be, says he can do it.

I don’t agree, though, with those who bitch about the Justice Department’s legal maneuverings to support the policy. We raise holy hell when Republicans refuse to enforce laws. We shouldn’t expect Democrats to do that, even though it’s an odious law that should never have been put on the books.

The health care reform bill wasn’t even a shadow of what it should have been. Obama’s still backing Bush-era civil liberties transgressions. Wall Street reform? Please. The “state secrets” bullshit? It’s ok for the president to order an assassination? Of an American citizen no less? I could go on and on and on and on, and many have.

And what do our leaders tell us when we do? Quit whining. That was Joe Biden on Monday. At a fundraiser, the vice president urged Democrats to

remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This president has done an incredible job. He’s kept his promises.

Well, sort of. But still, where do you think we’d be if McCain had won the election? Worse than we are now, certainly, and very likely worse than we were on January 19, 2009.

Obama, speaking to college journalists on a conference call, wasn’t nearly as rude as Biden, and, in fact, made a lot of sense.

You can’t sit it out. You can’t suddenly just check in once every 10 years or so, on an exciting presidential election, and then not pay attention during big midterm elections where we’ve got a real big choice between Democrats and Republicans

We really do have a big choice, and there’s a world of difference between the parties this go-round. Obama and the Democrats, despite their incalcitrance, are not the enemy. The enemy is people like Mike Huckabee, explaining here why insurance companies shouldn’t be forced to cover “pre-existing conditions.”

It sounds so good, and it’s such a warm message to say we’re not gonna deny anyone from a pre-existing condition. Look, I think that sounds terrific, but I want to ask you something from a common sense perspective. Suppose we applied that principle [to] our property insurance. And you can call your insurance agent and say, “I’d like to buy some insurance for my house.” He’d say, “Tell me about your house.” “Well sir, it burned down yesterday, but I’d like to insure it today.” And he’ll say “I’m sorry, but we can’t insure it after it’s already burned.” Well, no preexisting conditions.

The enemy is Christine O’Donnell.

You know what, evolution is a myth.

The enemy is Oklahoma State Rep. Lewis Moore, defending his support of a law banning courts from using Sharia law in their decisions.

Are we not at war with this ideology? Are we not at war with them? Then why would we give in to this?

The enemy is Sen. Jim Demented, who has crowned himself king and vowed to block every piece of legislation he doesn’t like.

“The Executive Committee of the Senate Steering Committee has asked the Steering Committee staff to hold all bills that have not been hotlined by close of business Tuesday,” his chief of staff said in an e-mail, referring to the conservative advisory committee that DeMint chairs.

“If there are any bills you would like cleared before we go out, please get them to the Steering Committee staff along with a CBO score, if applicable, by close of business on Tuesday.”

The enemy is Ron Johnson, teabag senator wannabe who could well defeat the most progressive senator in the Senate, Russ Feingold, in Wisconsin. Johnson opposes child abuse legislation.

I think it is extremely important to consider the economic havor and the other victims [the Wisconsin Child Victims Act] would likely create. [...] I believe it is a valid question to ask whether the employer of a perpetrator should also be severely damaged, or possibly destroyed, in our legitimate desire for justice. [...] It would also send a chilling signal to avoid this civic minded activity in the future. [...] I have no doubt trial lawyers would benefit, I’m not so sure the actual victims would.

The enemy is Sharron Angle.

I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.

The enemy is John Boehner.

Studies show that children best flourish when one mom and one dad are there to raise them.

The enemy is Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the racist, conserverati media.

They’re 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?

The enemy is Sen. Charles Grassley.

You have every right to fear. You shouldn’t have counseling at the end of life, you should have done that 20 years before. Should not have a government run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma.

The enemy is Rep. Steve King, who can’t seem to open his mouth without saying something insane, like calling Joe McCarty “a hero for America.”

The enemy is Rep. Michelle Bachmann.

Literally, if we took away the minimum wage — if conceivably it was gone — we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.

The enemy is Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell, who has spent the last six months running an anonymous blog viciously attacking the openly gay president of the University of Michigan student body, and Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, who hasn’t fired the motherfucker.
The enemy is Newt Gingrich, who will do or say anything to get elected president.

I want to repeal the New Deal.

The enemy is Rand Paul, talking about how courts are so “jammed” with people suing because, you know, things just happen.

Yeah, those things just get so jammed — everybody playing the blame game. I mean, sometimes mines just collapse, you know? Nobody’s fault. I think it’s called gravity.

The enemy is Glen Urquhart, tapped to fill Mike Castle’s state house seat in Delaware when he lost to Christine O’Donnell in the GOP Senate primary.

Do you know, where does this phrase separation of Church and State come from? Does anybody know? … Actually, that’s exactly, it was not in Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists. He was reassuring that the federal government wouldn’t trample on their religion. The exact phrase “separation of Church and State” came out of Adolph Hitler’s mouth, that’s where it comes from. Next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of Church and State ask them why they’re Nazis.

Need I say more? I can, you know. And by the way, Urquhart is flat out wrong about Jefferson. Here’s the quote, in case some lunatic teabagger someday asks why you’re a Nazi.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.

Clearly, my friends, the Obama administration and the Democrats, particularly those cowardly Blue Dogs who so fear losing an election that they act exactly like Republicans, have given us much to decry.

But now is not the time. We can do that again on November 3. Now, we must stop at least some of these ignorant and/or willfully wicked people from touching the reins of power. And there’s only one way to do that.

Vote.

9/11 and truth

Let’s start with some pure, unvarnished facts.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 followers of Osama bin Laden boarded four commercial U.S. airliners. Five boarded American Airlines Flight 11 in Boston, ostensibly en route to Los Angeles (two of those five actually started their journey in Portland, Maine, flying from there to Boston). Five more boarded United Flight 175, also in Boston and also bound for LA. Another five took their seats on American Flight 77,  which was taking off from Washington, D.C., and also heading to Los Angeles. And the final four boarded United Flight 93 in Newark, New Jersey on the way to San Francisco.

Less than two hours after the first of the terrorists had boarded his plane, all four had crashed and just short of 3,000 people were dead.

All that is true, and much more. What happened nine years ago today changed everything, as the Bush administration liked to say, and not nearly enough of it was for the better. In fact,  very little was.

For one thing, we had our first “who could have anticipated” moment from the Republicans, as in “who could have anticipated that terrorists would fly airplanes into buildings?” Why, the intelligence community, who, just the month before, had told President George W. Bush that bin Laden was thinking about such a thing.

With the hijackers at the controls, Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center’s north tower. Moments later, my newsroom got the news that a plane had slammed into the tower at 8:46. We had video up fast and spent the next few minutes wondering how a pilot could make a mistake like that. The smoke obscured the size of the hole in the building, but we were trying to get a better look 17 minutes later when Flight 175 hit the south tower. At 9:03 that Tuesday morning, we knew we were looking at a terrorist attack.

It was not an easy thing to deal with. Even though we saw no bodies immediately, the death toll, we knew, would be high. We struggled to come to grips with what we were seeing, but we were all professionals. We soon put our feelings on the back burner somewhere and focused on the task at hand.

And then we heard the Pentagon was on fire. Flight 77 had struck there, and at least one more plane was missing. I can’t even recount all the rumors that followed about what planes were where that day. Somewhere along the way, someone spotted the smoke from Flight 93 — which we learned later had been brought down by revolting passengers — billowing up from a field in Pennsylvania. Later — much later — we hear from Khalid Sheikh Muhammed himself that the Capitol had been its intended target.

Flight 93 came down just minutes after the south tower fell, and the north tower came down less than a half hour later, sealing the fate of rescuers and the hoping-to-be-rescued alike.

I cannot describe what that hour and a half was Iike, between the first strike and the north tower’s collapse, partly because it’s all a blur and partly because I fear dredging up some of the feelings I suppressed that day and the days that followed — feelings that haunted my dreams and nightmares and some of my waking hours in the weeks and months to follow.  Even now, I sometimes feel a chill when I catch a view of a building near where I work, one with a vague resemblance to the WTC towers, and cannot keep my mind from imagining a jet flying into the mirrored walls.

All of that is fact, although some of it is personal, not things you would know unless you knew me, personally, and I had told you. You would have to know me very, very well. I am telling you this much, now, so you can, perhaps, understand some of what my colleagues went through. I wasn’t there. I saw it all on raw video feeds, live, as it happened, and in the halting words of my colleagues, emergency workers and witnesses who were there. I can’t imagine how they sleep at night, even now. I can’t imagine how many real journalists — not the pretend journalists who pontificate from behind avante garde desks on any number of television shows originating in Washington or New York — sleep at night, spending so much of their time covering disasters. The floods, the hurricanes, the fires. But worse of all are the stories about man’s inhumanity to man — 9/11, the Holocaust, the Kosovar and Rwandan genocides.

9/11 pales in comparison to the others but for one thing: It happened in one day, in one 90-minute period. A beautiful blue fall morning, and then fire and smoke and dust and screams and death.

Likely, you have your own stories — where you were, what you were doing at the precise moment you learned about the attack. Like I remember those things about when I learned about the JFK assassination. Now I have two of those things, impressed indelibly on the network of my nervous system and likely to flair into my thoughts unannounced.

As a result of those incidents, the United States entered into war in Afghanistan, shrunk some of the civil liberties of its own citizens and began fostering a slow, simmering bigotry that, for a short time, most Americans tried to fight off.

Bush had a golden opportunity to heal the serious divisions caused by the Republicans non-stop, eight-year-long attack on Bill Clinton simply because he was a Democrat who had the audacity to win the presidency.

He squandered it. But that should have been obvious from the start when he won election by virtue of being appointed by the Supreme Court and promptly claimed a mandate to do whatever the fuck he wanted and to hell the with other half of the country.

All of whom were promptly labeled traitors and terrorist sympathizers after as 9/11, doubled down on March 20, 2003, when Bush did what he’d been planning to do since before the election — he invaded Iraq.

Instead of bringing a divided country together, Bush and the Republicans widened the rift, holding us hostage to fear — fear they fostered.

Those are facts, too, but you wouldn’t know it from listening, watching or reading most of my colleagues. I tell you these things to gently show you how easily facts can be twisted, denied and ignored. Here are some things that are not facts.

The towers were brought down by controlled explosions.
It was an inside job.
Several of the hijackers were later seen alive.
The Pentagon was hit by a missile.
Flight 93 was shot down.

Despite what you may hear from the conspiracy-mongers who believe this shit, none of it is true. Come on, the Bush administration wasn’t competent enough to plan this. Or maybe these dweebs believe Clinton planned it before he left office.

I don’t even know why I’m going on about this, except that all this Quran burning crap finally got to me, just like the scary Muslim terrorist meme that started on September 11,  2001, finally got to Terry Jones and Pam Geller and the rest of the conservatives who have finally loosed their inner Islamaphobe. Nine years later.

What the Reagan Revolution started — economic destruction and the largest divide between the haves and have nots since the robber barons — Bush put the finishing touches on. But then, term limits took him out, and Americans started to see reality. They not only elected a Democrat, but they elected a black Democrat. And at that moment, we had our one and only chance to stop disaster.

Barack Obama squandered it. He tried to make nice with men and women who had no intentions whatsoever of cooperating, who, in fact, had made it clear from the very start that they intended to assure his presidency’s failure. It hasn’t really worked, of course. The Obama administration, while not living up to our dreams and aspirations, has accomplished quite a bit. The world is a better place right now than it was on January 19, 2009.

But you wouldn’t know that listening, watching and reading my colleagues. They’re too busy looking for the scandals, the most minute inconsistencies they can find. And the Republicans, who have spent all their time looking for problems instead of solutions, are happy to provide them with all their hard work. And that’s what passes as “news” these days.

This week, it’s Terry Jones and the Quran Burners. My colleagues have given you the blow-by-blow of everything, right up to Jones’ not really set up meeting with the “iman” in New York who is building an Islamic Community Center too close to ground zero for the conservatives. And by too close, they mean in the United States.

What my colleagues have failed to point out, however, is that the very conservatives who want nothing to do with the “iman’s” First Amendment rights to freedom of religion are all about Terry Jones’ First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.

It’s been nine years since those 19 men, trained and funded by al Qaeda, did their dirty work. And we have learned nothing at all.

Ugly Americans

Mostly, I understand the idiocies and incoherence of the right. I think it’s a load of bullshit, but I understand how they get to these places of pure stupidity. I also understand that it’s their choices that led them there — their completely wrong choices, their frightened and combative decisions on dealing with a changing and complex world.

It’s all about trying to make things simple, like they used to be. Except they never were. Not really.

Take this Islamic community center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center towers. Down south, many decades ago, at a site they call Ocmulgee, Americans sliced a 1,000-year-old Mississippian burial mound in half for a railroad line. They didn’t think anything of it, just wiped out half the mound and laid the tracks. Simple, right? Sure, for people who believe themselves to be far superior to any other piece of humanity that ever has been or ever will be.

I call that a travesty. A rude, insensitive and outlandish thing to do. And don’t even start with, “well, it was the times … ” Can you imagine if Egypt took down half the Great Pyramid because they couldn’t be bothered to reroute a rail line to avoid it?

But in New York, the very idea of an Islamic cultural center — which will contain a room for Muslims to pray, which is what a mosque is –two blocks away from “ground zero” has ignited some unbelievably ugly and vile garbage.

Now, here, you might get away with “well, the times,” because these times are just plain ugly. Just a day before President Obama threw his support behind the center, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, one of the most repulsive human beings ever to walk the planet, let loose with an N-word tirade that she later apologized for, not because she meant it but because she had to. She did not apologize for the bullshit “political correctness” crap she was trying to make a point about, and neither did Rep. Pete King, Wingnut-New York, when he called Obama’s speech politically correct.

I don’t know about politically correct, but Obama, the constitutional scholar, was certainly constitutionally correct, and he said so. This is about freedom of religion, he said.

Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.

King missed the point, of course. Obama, he said, “caved to political correctness,” which is true if, by “political correctness,” you mean “the law.”

King, known for throwing out tons of bullshit he says he got from inside sources that later turns out to completely wrong (but which no one remembers was wrong), seems to think the Constitution is politically correct. Well, yeah, in a way. I suppose you could say it’s the most politically correct document we have. Which makes it kinda strange that he — and thousands of others — who contend that Democrats in general and Obama in particular are “shredding” the Constitution (unlike George W. Bush, of course) would completely ignore it.

Obama, as is his want, tossed a bone to the conservofreaks, saying he was only speaking of the “right” that Muslims have to worship where they please, within the law, and not the “wisdom” of their choices. But then again, it’s not his place to be addressing that issue. And besides, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, did that quite well.

As much as I respect the sensitivities of people, there is a fundamental mistake behind it, and that is how can you — and I can quote any number of some of the people who have commented on it, and what they are saying essentially is how can you put a mosque there when, after all, Muslims attacked us on 9/11, and this is ripping open a wound?

Well, the fallacy is that al Qaeda attacked us. Islam did not attack us. Islam, like Christianity, like Judaism, like other religions, has many different people, some of whom regard other adherents of the religion as heretics of one sort or another.

It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit, as opposed to as the culprit. We were not attacked by all Muslims. And there were Muslims who were killed there, there were Muslims who were killed there. There were Muslims who ran in as first responders to help. And we cannot take any position like that.

Never mind that there’s a mosque inside the Pentagon (which you may remember and another just a few blocks from the old Burlington Coat Factory.

And never mind, too, the other part of what Nadler had to say.

But we do not put the Bill of Rights, we do not put the religious freedom to a vote. The reason we have a Bill of Rights is that you have your religious rights, your right to freedom of speech for the press et cetera, whether majorities like you or not, frankly.

Of course, none of that means anything to the crackpots on the right. Erick Erickson, the RedState blogger that CNN inexplicably gives precious airtime to, wasn’t nearly so mealy-mouthed. He flat out compared the center in the old Burlington Coat Factory to human sacrifice.

Human sacrifice. Right, Erick. My, but you have such a thin skin if you see that as equivalent to killing someone to appease a god. But then, Christians have done that for centuries, without ever calling it what it actually is.

And it’s not just in New York of course. That’s what they’d like you to believe, that they just don’t like an Islamic cultural center with a mosque so near ground zero (never mind that there has been one there for years). Oh, no. It’s happening in California, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, Connecticut and who knows how many other places.

Bryan Fischer, a spokesman for the American Family Association — which sets up elderly Americans to count the number of “curse” words used on television — called for no more mosques in America.

Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America, let alone the monstrosity planned for Ground Zero.

“There is no such thing as freedom of religion in Islam,” he said, prompting many of us to wonder if, by “freedom of religion,” he actually means “freedom of Christianity.” And his solution is for Muslims to renounce Islam.

Alas, America has a history of this kind of ugliness. After all, we invaded this continent and took it away from the people who lived here, then called them “savages” when they took offense. President Andrew Jackson, that son of a bitch, had a solution for that too. Drive them all to the wastelands of Oklahoma, which worked fine until oil was discovered there, kinda like how driving others into the Dakota Badlands worked fine until they found gold there.

I won’t go into what happened on Nunna daul IsunyiI – “The Trail Where They Cried,” now known as the “Trail Of Tears.” Or what happened on the “reservations” where native Americans were forced to live. But it was ugly. The same kind of ugly we’re seeing now in the immigration issue and in this ground zero mosque issue.

In a nation where “all men are created equal,” it’s damnably clear that only some are, the ones Sarah Palin calls the “real Americans.”

The ones who are not — native Americans, African Americans, Muslim Americans, gay and lesbian Americans — well, we might as well take “American” off the name. It’s clear the Constitution is only for straight, white Christian Americans. The ugly ones. That’s exactly what they mean when they rally, holding signs that glaringly show they have no idea how government works and shouting “We want our country back.”

So do I. It was a much nicer place before you got here.

I’m sorry. That was such a mean thing to say. But watching and listening to this “debate” — if, by “debate,” you mean “ugly people spouting ugly words about people they know nothing about and care even less about” — I’m perpetually on the edge of anger and heartbreak.

Be that as it may, when it comes down to comprehending the somewhat addled minds of the “real Americans,” this is one I don’t get. No matter how hard I try, I cannot understand how it is that so many Americans subscribe to the “freedom for me but not for thee” mantra, nor how disgustingly vile they get expressing that view. It’s anathema to the Constitution they claim to defend.

It’s as if they never learned Rule 1, way back before kindergarten.

Share. And we all know what happens to the kids who missed that lesson. Yeah. They grow up to be bullies, assholes who think they’re better than everybody else and that they have a right to dictate to everybody else how they can be.

Even worse, they stoop to the same intolerance and hatred they claim these others have. Osama bin Laden must be cackling away wherever it is that he’s hiding since George W. Bush forgot all about his vow to “smoke him out.”

I’ve got some big news for these ugly Americans. The world ain’t your oyster. You’re just a common human being, like everybody else, and I do mean everybody. It’s way past time for you overgrown bullies to buck up and grow up.

Hell, if you’d get that damn chip off your shoulders and lighten up, you might find common ground with your fellow common man. You might even *gasp* like it.

Or, just stay the way you are. But remember, like my friend’s mama used to say:

God don’t like ugly.

It’s not the color of your skin

Dear white people

First of all, I want to assure you that my dislike of you isn’t because of the color of you skin. It’s the “people” part. I really don’t care much for people, regardless of the skin color, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religious or economic background or national origin. Most of you are just too predictable, too willing to believe anything as long as it fits your preconceived notions. And you wear those preconceived notions on your sleeves, telegraph them with your eyes and reveal them in the patterns of your speech.

And yes, I have noticed that I am a people too. If I weren’t me, I probably wouldn’t like me either. But I’ve been with me for several decades now, and while I don’t always trust myself, I have come to an understanding that keeps me from shuffling off this mortal coil for some trivial reason.

How I came to that understanding was simple, although it took a fair number of those decades to really comprehend. It’s just this: I ask myself every day, several times a day, one little question: What if I’m wrong?

It keeps me humble, this realization that I could be wrong. It also keeps me from buying into everything that’s thrown my way, even if it agrees with my way of thinking, my ideology, if you will.

Ew. That’s a Darth Cheney phrase. And by the way, I’m well aware that I’m generalizing here. But I’m trying to make a point. If none of this describes you, terrific. If any of it does — or if you find you’re getting angry with me for saying it — take a deep breath and think long and hard before you respond.

Anyway, because I know that I could be wrong, I want to check out everything I read, see or hear because I’d like to minimize the chance that I am wrong. I don’t like to be wrong, but sometimes I am, and when I am, I want the harsh truth shoved into my face so I can admit it and go on about my business.

Too many people — and white people, you are some of the most egregious offenders — can’t conceive of the possibility you might be wrong. But I suspect that way deep in your minds, you fear you might be, but can’t ask the question. So you surround yourself with other people who believe what you believe and will assure you of your correctness.

I gotta tell ya, that ain’t no way to live.

Look what happens when you live like that. You listen to bloviators, watch news shows with a clear agenda, read blogs and books and newspapers that offer no space for an open mind. So when Fox News tells you that a guy named Van Jones, who is the White House “green jobs czar,” is a convicted felon who spent six months in jail for something vague having to do with the Rodney King riots, you look at Van Jones and you believe it. You don’t question it, not for a moment, and you join the rowdy cacophony calling for his head. And, Van Jones — who has never been convicted of a crime or spent a day in jail and is imminently qualified to guide the administration’s strategy to create environmentally sound jobs — loses his. And you cry “Victory!”

And when your news sources tell you that an organization called ACORN is involved in massive voter fraud and even stole the Minnesota Senate election from Norm Coleman for that socialist comedian Al Franken, you look at the leaders of ACORN and call for their heads. And when your news sources play videos that seem to show an man and a woman outrageously dressed as a pimp and a prostitute getting advice on running an underaged whore house, you look at ACORN’s employees and you go absolutely berserk. And ACORN — which has never been charged with felony voter fraud (some of its registrars, generally poor people they hire in various locals to register people to vote, have been charged with voter registration fraud) — loses its federal funding and is forced to shut down. And again, you cry “Victory!” even though the videos you saw were heavily edited, the couple never appeared to ACORN employees dressed as a pimp and prostitute and every single investigation of the matter completely exonerated the group.

Then your news sources tell you about the very scary New Black Panther Party, which was charged with voter intimidation in Philadelphia only to see the charges dropped by the Justice Department, which is, of course, absolute proof that the Obama administration won’t pursue charges against black people. You looked at the New Black Panther Party and screamed “Racism!” and your news sources pour it on. But they don’t tell you the truth about the New Black Panther Party, the charges against them or the Justice Department. The New Black Panther Party, which has no connection to the original Black Panther Party (whose members have strongly condemned it and even sued it), is an offshoot of the Nation of Islam. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, which monitor such things, have labeled it a hate group. And the voter intimidation? One armed member of the group showed up at a polling station in a heavily black precinct in Philadelphia and was escorted away by the police. Because the incident was videotaped, the Justice Department filed charges and investigated, finding that no one filed a complaint charging voter intimidation and the deluded idiot thought he was there to “protect” the black voters. A career attorney — not a political appointee — made the decision to drop the charges. But you look at Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama and keep crying “Racism!” because there’s no way Fox News could possibly be wrong.

And then there was Shirley Sherrod, the state director for rural development for the Department of Agriculture in Georgia. Your news sources showed you a two minute video tape in which Sherrod says she didn’t give a white farmer her “full” help. They tell you this is what the Obama Agriculture Department is doing — discriminating against white people. You look at Shirley Sherrod and scream “Racism!” and Shirley Sherrod loses her job, even though the rest of her 45 minutes speech shows clearly that she was using her personal experience to share a life lesson — that we must move beyond racism, that poverty is colorblind — and that the incident took place 24 years ago, long before she started working at USDA. And you cry “Victory!” even as the administration delivers mea culpa after mea culpa. And you believe it when your news sources tell you that this heavily edited video shows members of the NAACP applauded racism (it doesn’t — but since you didn’t watch the tape you don’t know that) and that it wasn’t about Shirley Sherrod, who lost her job, but about that racist NAACP.

You are angry with the NAACP because your news sources told you that the organization condemned the entire Tea Party as racist. You look at the Tea Party and scream “It’s the NAACP that’s racist!” and you nod and shout some more when your news sources tell you there’s no proof whatsoever that the Tea Party is racist. But the NAACP didn’t do what your news sources told you. They passed a resolution calling on the Tea Party to divest itself of racist elements, to go further than media statements condemning racism and actually remove those elements. But because your news sources have told you that the “racist elements” so visible at Tea Party rallies are liberal plants, you ignore what’s actually been said and keep screaming “Racism!”

That’s what you do, white people. But here’s the thing. Your leaders and your news sources have snookered you, just like they snookered the NAACP and the administration with that heavily edited video of Shirley Sherrod. They are playing on your fears, your distrust of “the other” that comes from both an eternity of human history and a more recent history of America.

And they’ve been doing this same thing for years. Lying to you. They tell you black people get everything and you get nothing. They tell you a gay couple getting married will destroy your own marriage. They tell you the liberals are going to make it impossible for you to worship in your church and possibly make it illegal. They tell you Barack Obama and all liberals are socialists, that illegal immigrants are taking away your jobs and your health care, clogging up the schools and ruining America because they’re all drug smugglers.

They have made you believe that you are a victim. But you’re not. None of those things are true. Oh, there’s a kernel of truth in each one, but it’s nothing like what you’re told.

Black people are hundreds of years behind you, having spent hundreds of years as slaves to your ancestors. No, it’s not your fault. But what little comes to them to help erase centuries of discrimination takes nothing away from you. It is not a zero sum game. A gay marriage changes your marriage only in that it becomes more inclusive, and no, not including marriages between man and beasts or man and children (that belongs to fundamentalist Mormons) or man and man and man and woman and woman and woman. Liberals don’t care how you worship, or that you do, only that you don’t use your religious beliefs to tie the hands of the rest of us. That you see abortion as murder does not make it so. Don’t have one, but leave the rest of us out of it. And we’re not socialists. Well, some of us are. Frankly, a little socialism would do us some good. It’s unbridled capitalism that has cost you your jobs and your bank accounts, not illegal immigrants or black people. And illegal immigrants are illegal because we’ve lost what we once were and it’s too damn hard to be legal. Yes, some of them are drug smugglers, but they’re not the ones mowing your lawn or trying to get their children a decent education so they can earn enough money to live, something that is awfully hard where they come from.

You, white people, you look at all these millions of people and don’t see people. You see “not me.” But you’re wrong. And all the people telling you you’re not are lying to you.

We’re all you. You’re all us.

I’d like you all — white, black, Muslim, Christian, etc. — a helluva lot more if you just realized that and stopped listening to the power-mad deceivers who have your ear. I’d even like me better if you did that, because I’d have much less reason to be angry, to worry about our future.

And so would you.

Calling bullshit

I’ve been laughing for two days. That conservative nimrod Andrew Breitbart and the PR wing of the Teapublicans, Fox News, got caught with their pants down on this Shirley Sherrod thing.

They ran with an edited video, a specialty of Breitbart’s, and then, alluva sudden, it turned out their “interpretation” of the edits was spectacularly wrong.

Of course, the NAACP and the Obama administration get black marks for this too. In typical, knee-jerk, liberal fashion, they caved to the great conserverati and blasted poor Shirley to kingdom come. Cost her her job, one she was imminently qualified for.

Ben Jealous, the NAACP president — to his credit — called Sherrod and apologized. The Obama administration? Well, the president agrees with his Agriculture Secretary’s boneheaded decision to force Sherrod out, proving once and for all that it is led by the nose by the conservati.

Here’s the thing: what Sherrod was doing in that video was having the conversation about race that we all need to be having. The one the administration can’t be bothered with, and the one the conservarati don’t think is necessary. Unless you’re a minority. White people, of course, are just the poor, downtrodden victims of the liberal drive to destroy the true American (read white) culture.

Honestly, man, there is no white culture, unless you count collecting guns and whining that they pay too much taxes in a country with one of the lowest tax rates in the world. Just about everything else about white “culture” came from somewhere else, somebody else, some other culture.

But this is not rocket science. The conservarati and their deluded followers would have us believe there is no racism anywhere. They’d have to be trying to convince us of that if they have the gall to say there’s no racism in the Tea Party.

That’s why Breitbart and Fox are after the NAACP, pretty much the same way they went after ACORN and killed it (although every investigation exonerated ACORN and we learned that Breitbart’s pimp video was bullshit too).

They’re all pissed off because the NAACP passed a resolution (which, incidentally, won’t be completely official until and unless its board passes it in October) that condemned racist elements in the Tea Party and called on its leaders to do so as well.

As usual, the conservarati lied about what the resolution said, thus creating a false controversy that my colleagues have dutifully kept in the spotlight. Contrary to what you may have heard, the NAACP did not call the Tea Party racist. It simply pointed out racist elements, you know, like the Tea Partiers who carry big posters of the president with a bone through his nose.

I’m beginning to believe, though, that these throwbacks to the Jim Crow era may really believe that the things they do and say aren’t racist. Take Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams and his ridiculously stupid “letter” from Jealous to Abe Lincoln, in which he has Jealous complaining that emancipation means the “coloreds” actually have to work to get their wide screen TVs in every room.

Williams thought he was being cute. But he was really just being a jackass. And now this Sherrod thing — damn, even RedState’s Erick Erickson says it’s a load of crap.

But not the president. He’s behind AgSec Tom Vilsack and his uninformed decision to have his people force Sherrod to resign.

Chalk up another wasted opportunity. Here’s what Sherrod was doing. In her speech, one she’s actually delivered several times, she talks about the first time she had to work with a white farmer who was in danger of losing his farm. Now, Shirley and her husband Charles are also farmers, and back in the 1960s, they joined with a bunch of other black farmers to create a land trust called New Communities to help black farmers do what they do — farming. So Sherrod had a lot of experience, several decades worth, helping black farmers in rural area (in her case Georgia) deal with the institutional racism that kept them from getting the help they needed and that white farmers and corporations got all the time.

But one day 24 years ago, she was assigned to a white farmer, Roger Spooner. In her speech, she talks honestly about her own racism — and how it nearly derailed her efforts to help the Spooners. But she wised up and got them the help they needed, saving the farm.

What she’s doing in this speech is using personal experience to teach about changing attitudes, about stepping outside ourselves and looking at a much larger picture, in this case, once that included a white farmer in rural Georgia. It’s called a “teaching moment,” and Shirley Sherrod uses that moment well.

But then come the racists who don’t think they are, bound and determined to soil the NAACP and wrecking Shirley Sherrod’s career in the process. “This isn’t about Shirley Sherrod,” whined Breitbart on CNN.

Yeah, it is, Andy, you fucker. You made it about her by presenting what she was doing in a way you damn well knew was wrong. But that didn’t stop you, because you have made it your life’s goal to obliterate humanity from the United States of America. What a pitiful, despicable goal that is.

And how much better you’d be — we’d all be — if you realized this was another teaching moment, one in which you’d learn something.

But he won’t. None of those assholes will. Erickson, while admitting Breitbart had screwed up, nevertheless defended what the jackass was trying to do — prove that black people are racists too and that those aforementioned poor, downtrodden white people are constantly being called racist simply because they are angry that black people get all the breaks.

Like hell.

Here’s what I’m hoping for — I’m hoping that my colleagues finally get it this time that we need to be calling bullshit on this crap. We cannot continue to give these fools precious airtime to spread their vicious lies, and it doesn’t matter if they’re self-styled conservative website publishers like Breitbart, batshit insane congresscritters like Michelle Bachman or Fox Fucking News, which has been beating the racism drum for months now with no one daring to call them on it.

That needs to be all over. Conservatives have good ideas. But they don’t bother with that. Instead they instill fear and loathing in the populace by promoting complete distortions like the tale of Shirley Sherrod. It’s time my colleagues let go of the idea they have to present “both sides” to be fair. When one side believes completely insane things, you’re not being fair. You’re stupidly elevating insanity to the level of reason.

This country used to know that. But since my colleagues have, for the most part, abandoned their obligation to get to the truth and tell that out of some fear of offending the lunatics, very few of us know it now. Instead, when we turn on the television or read a newspaper we hear Jon Kyl, the other crazy senator from Arizona (what is it with that state anyway?) saying that cutting taxes for the rich isn’t spending money so it’s OK if that increases the deficit that the conservarati are absolutely apoplectic about if it has anything about helping people who need help.

I am so fucking sick of hearing the talking heads blather on with their spin-laden talking points on every goddamn cable television show. They don’t say a damn thing that means anything, and yet, there they are, again and again and again and again.

And Shirley Sherrod lost her job. But it’s not about her. It’s about killing real freedom and hitting the knees of this country with iron bars.

Oh, right. It’s the people we should be concerned with. The white people. Particularly the rich ones. And they must be Christian, and no gays allowed.

Shirley isn’t one of the “real” Americans, you know. She’s just a lazy black woman who’s worked her whole live for justice and learned somewhere along the way that justice for all really means all.

That’s something the conservati can’t accept. Damn them for it. They need to get their heads out of their own asses and live up to their (for now) false creed of being “for the people.”

The fall of the American empire

This country is fucked up, man. I’ve seen a lot in my rather lengthy years here, and I’ve never seen it like this. I know, I know, there’s some song out there that says something about “Every generation thinks it’s the last,” or some such. I hate that fucking song. And yeah, we’ve been pretty fucked up before. The Civil War comes to mind. But tell me when we’ve ever before had this harmonic convergence of stupidity, cowardice, cruelty, corruption, hatred, lies and obstruction. You can’t do it, because we’ve never had it.

And that’s just Congress. Never mind the corporations, the Tea Party, the militias, the states, religion and, of course, the people who create those monstrosities.

Maybe it has something to do with the bird we picked to symbolize our greatness, the bald eagle. Magnificent bird, but awfully lazy. They won’t leave their evening roost sites, usually on cliffsides, if there’s not enough wind because they’d rather not flap those enormous wings. And they’d much rather whack you over the head with those wings and steal the fish you just caught than catch one themselves. Ben Franklin was right about the wild turkey. Not a very attractive bird, true, but industrious and not a mugger.

Something needs to happen, and soon, before we end up crushed and broken like the Roman Empire, shattered into tiny pieces and living in a modern version of the Dark Ages.

But what the hell can we do? We elect people we think will do the right thing, and as soon as they get into office they become the same old politicians. And why not? They know which side of the bread has the butter, man, and it ain’t us.

So on this July 4, Independence Day, maybe we oughta be thinking about what kind of country we want.

Now, I know what kind of country I’d like to live in, and I’ll bet it’s pretty similar to the one you envision. But there’s an awful lot of folks out there who don’t share our dreams and hopes. But maybe they would, if only they could cut through the bullshit and understand the truth about who we are and where we come from.

Online, we largely talk to ourselves. While it’s good to know there are others as distressed as we are about the current state of affairs, we get nowhere in terms of making change happen. So start talking. Talk to your family, your friends, your coworkers. Let them see how you feel about things, not your strident ideological viewpoint, because they really don’t give a good goddamn about that. They only care about how they feel, which is why the Teapublican conservarati are so fucking successful. They play on feelings — on the scariest of feelings. But most of what the conservarati want us to fear is made up shit, or maybe exaggerated shit at best.

I don’t want to live in a world where I’m terrified to leave my house or frightened of a terrorist attack that is bound to strike where I am at that time or the coming takeover of our government by a hostile enemy. I know that bad things could happen at any time, and I know that the hostile enemy that is trying to take over our government is the very group that pretends to be the only ones who can save us. That’s a common movie plot, people. We oughta be able to recognize it by now — and that includes your family, friends and coworkers.

Michael Steele, the Republicans’ attempt to prove they aren’t a bunch of racist bastards, is a freaking idiot. And a liar. Or maybe he really believes his lies, I don’t know what’s in that guy’s head. He said last week that Afghanistan was the “war of Obama’s choosing,” that “this is not something United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

Christ, Steele, on what fucking planet? And yet, my friends, can you even imagine how many people out there now believes exactly that.

Steele forgot, apparently, that it was George W. Bush who started that war after 9/11. Of course, Bush too quickly forgot about it, preferring instead to wage a real war of choice in Iraq. Just a few short months after he started that war, loudly declaring we’d smoke al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden out of the caves where they hid, he was telling reporters he didn’t think much about bin Laden, that bin Laden didn’t concern him. Of course not. He was working on what had been his plan all along — the invasion of Iraq.

Is that the kind of country we want? Where our leaders can’t make up their minds what the fuck they’re doing and blatantly lie about it?

Do we want a country where the party with the majority in Congress repeatedly caves to the minority on important issues they were elected to address? I know I didn’t cast my ballot for Barack Obama in 2008 so we could still keep prisoners at Gitmo who have not been charged and probably tortured, or conduct electronic surveillance on anybody we choose, American citizen or no, just because.

I don’t want a country, in fact, whose people think torture is OK. Waterboarding. It wasn’t an unknown technique when we suddenly learned we were doing it. It has a long and ugly history, and for that entire history it’s been labeled torture. Right up until George W. Bush admitted we did it. Then suddenly it was just a “harsh interrogation technique that some consider torture.” Really? Fuck that. Waterboarding is torture.

Actually, watching our government implode is torture. Watching Teapublicans get everything they fucking want in a bill and still refuse to vote for it is torture.

These guys started out Obama’s administration saying they wanted it to fail. They’re doing a great job of making sure that happens. Is that the kind of country we want? I don’t think so.

And it’s only gonna get worse, I tell you. We’re on a rapid slide to a catastrophic failure, and we’re getting awfully close to the point of no return. Think it’s bad now? Put the Republicans back in power in Congress. Or elect more Blue Dog corporate slave Democrats. See what happens then.

The Republicans want a government that caters to the rich, that makes them more powerful than they need to be. They don’t give a shit about you and me, and they especially don’t give a shit about the poor or anybody not white. Except Michael Steele, apparently, and maybe Alberto Gonzales.

That’s why they go on and on about socialism and Nazism and terrorists and Muslims and immigrants. It’s why they destroyed ACORN. It’s why they’re doing everything they can to save BP and nothing to save the Gulf Coast.

And a lot of people who are not completely destitute or unemployed buy into their crap. Know why? Because they still cling to something that was never true — that elusive American Dream of someday being one of the rich guys.

Not gonna happen for most, because what they don’t understand is that to become one of those guys you have to sell your soul, or not have one to begin with.

I don’t want to live in a soulless country. It sounds to much like late Victorian England, with debtors prisons and despicable orphanages and health care provided by Jack the Ripper types if you can get it at all.

No, I want a country that cares about its people, not its profits. I want a country that sees despair and bends to lift it, that educates its children in the ways of science and history, that encourages innovation and invention and gives those children the means to create.

Instead, though, we have a country that devalues education, cuts funding and then wonders why China is leaping ahead of us economically.

We have a country that values killing people more than it values saving lives by keeping our own infrastructure in good repair.

Some Republican last week lamented that our economy was going the way of the Roman Empire, blaming Obama and Democrats for that, naturally. He was half right. Our economy is collapsing, but it’s 30 years of conservative fuckery that’s cutting the legs out from under it.

How quickly we forget. Obama entered his presidency in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and Republicans have screwed up every single thing he’s tried to fix it.

It was going to be a long, hard road anyway, but now it’s gotten longer and perhaps impossible to travel.

I’m angry as hell at the Republicans for that, and angry too at Obama and the Democrats for letting them do it, for not countering their scary rhetoric.

So if they’re not gonna do it, we have to. Not just to ourselves, but to everyone. It’s our last chance to turn this ship of state around. It’s hard work, and it will take a long, long time.

But the alternative is just too painful to even imagine.

Blame game

So there I was, sittin at my desk, trying to keep up with multiple copies of multiple e-mails that were flooding into my inbox while simultaneously figuring out which were dross and which I really needed, when my boss, who was sitting at the next desk over, looked at me and said

Obama’s gonna really take it on the chin over this oil spill.

Well, duh, big guy. What was your first clue? And what do you mean “gonna”?

He’s right, of course, although our subsequent discussion didn’t sound like I agreed. The president is taking it on the chin right now from Republicans, mostly, who are ironically calling for more government interference in what should be a private business issue.

Had he jumped in and started ordering BP around or kicking them out of the fix, however, Obama would be taking it on the chin right now from Republicans, almost exclusively, who oppose government interference in what should be a private business issue.

So while conservatives are out there trying to have things like discrimination both ways (“I oppose discrimination, I just don’t think we should do anything about it”), they’re also actively making sure that Democrats, and particularly this president, are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

But here are my colleagues, full participants in making this oil spill “Obama’s Katrina.”

The truth is what Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said just the other day:

To push BP out of the way would be to raise the question, to replace them with what?

See, the federal government lacks the equipment and technology to stop this oil spill. The federal government, as you may or may not know, is not in the oil drilling business.

They’re damning the administration for not having an oil spill contingency plan. Really? I guess in 10 or 20 years when, say, Atlanta has another blizzard and can’t dig out because the city finds it just a little wrong to buy and maintain snow equipment for that once-a-generation occurrence, Atlanta’s citizens should call for the mayor’s head.

Isn’t this what the Republicans want? BP, Transocean and Halliburton fucked this up. BP, Halliburton and Transocean need to fix it. What? They didn’t have a plan either? Gee, who’s fault is that?

Oh, right. Obama’s.

You don’t hear much about this, but there were BP execs on board the Deepwater Horizon when it blew up. They were celebrating their safety record. Know what else? They had a lot of warning that something was wrong before the explosion, and they did absolutely nothing about it.

Hell, BP even got a big ole warning — actually several of them — in the hours before Deepwater Horizon blew up. They ignored them. Told Congress they made “a fundamental mistake” by  continuing drilling operations after they had very clear warning that something was very, very fucked up.

But my beloved colleagues are busy being their short-sighted selves. It happened on Obama’s watch, so it’s his fault. It’s Obama’s Katrina.

Never mind, of course, that Katrina was a hurricane, a natural disaster, and of a type that happens rather frequently, if not quite on that level. The federal government supposedly has all kinds of mechanisms in place to deal with that, and besides, they had years of warnings that the levees in NOLA wouldn’t hold. Not only that, but there were hours, days even of warning that this ‘cane was coming ashore, and it was gonna be big. And 2005 was deep into the Bush administration.

Now, I’m all kinda pissed off that this oil spill is wrecking what’s left of Louisiana’s wetlands. But Louisiana’s wetlands were a disaster long before April 20. Nobody seemed very worried about all the silt and mud that the dammed up Mississippi River dumps into the gulf every day, creating an ever-widening dead zone. True, that dead zone is a bunch bigger now, and all manner of innocent animals are being oiled because of this spill.

But here’s the real deal. It’s not Obama’s fault, although it’s damn clear he’s taking the blame. He does have a part to play, of course. But the real culprits here are the legislators and corporatists who have refused for decades to do anything at all to lessen our dependence on oil. Not foreign oil, mind you. Any oil at all. Drilling in the ocean (or ANWR or anywhere else for that matter) is a disaster waiting to happen. And now it has.

It’s also the fault of a government in which regulators, the companies they regulate and those companies’ lobbyists are virtually the same people. One senator called it a “revolving door.” Another said they’re “in bed” together. Even if by some miracle one of the regulators hires somebody who takes his or her job seriously, you know the peer pressure is serious.

And that goes way back in this government, past Obama, past Clinton, past both Bushes. You find some, but very little before Reagan, and a lot from that time on.

That’s what the conservatives mean when they sign onto Grover Norquist’s idea to make government so small you can drown it in a bathtub. An end to regulation. That and an end to social programs that can help American citizens without their having to sign their lives away to corporate owners.

We didn’t learn a damn thing from the Exxon Valdez, though, and I doubt seriously we’ll learn a damn thing from this. See how quickly “let the market take care of it” goes by the wayside when something truly devastating happens? That’s because the market is only interested in making its masters more money. Cleaning up an oil spill, even stopping the gusher that’s causing it, doesn’t make anybody any money.

Well, except maybe the makers of that dispersant that BP insists on using, the one that’s more toxic and less efficient than any of the other available dispersants.

Obama’s part of this too — where’s that big energy plan? Oh right. It’s all tied up in “negotiations” with the party of no, wherein the administration waters the bill down to nothing with Republican proposals and then they vote no anyway.

The lesson we should be learning is that oil is a no-win game. It pollutes in more ways than we can count. It’s dangerous. It’s a killer. And it’s yet another thing that does nothing for average Americans.

The Gulf coast is gonna be a mess for a long time, whether BP gets its shit together or the federal government takes over. Truth is, there was really no contingency plan to be had for something like this. BP certainly wasn’t going to spend any money developing one, and you won’t find one in the vaults at Shell or Chevron or Texaco or ExxonMobile either. A gusher a mile below the surface isn’t something you expect to happen — unless, of course, you realize that drilling for oil anywhere on the planet is a set-up for something like this. And it’s pretty clear very few people understand that.

So here’s the deal, America. Get it through your head that we need to leave oil behind, period. We need clean, safe, alternative energy sources, and we need ‘em yesterday.

I just saw a Tweet flash by on my screen:

BREAKING: Large Air Spill At Wind Farm. No Threats Reported. Some Claim To Enjoy The Breeze

Mmmm. Now that’s what I’m talkin about.

Make no mistake. This is a disaster. But the root of it isn’t the Obama administration.

It’s greed.